To be honest, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is the first of Stephenie Meyer books that I've read. Somehow, the Twilight hysteria has passed me by. In terms of this review, that's something of a pity, because this is clearly a spin-off of Eclipse (the third Twilight instalment), and the foreword notes that it was inspired by the author's curiosity about one of her characters, with whom Twilight fans will already be familiar.
The character in question is, of course, Bree Tanner. Bree is a newborn vampire, and apparently lacks the magnetism and - dare I say it - humanity of Edward Cullen (the central character, brought to life on screen by Robert Pattinson, for all those non Twihards). Instead, she's a seething, violent, vicious energy; yet, as part of a coven of equally 'young' (read: freshly minted) vampires, she's intensely vulnerable - apparently, this lot are as backstabbing as they are bloodthirsty, and feel nothing to attack their own kind.
Making her situation even more complex is the appearance of new vampires by the day, which hints at something sinister. Bree believes that her pack leader is creating an army of sorts, and her suspicions prove correct when a showdown occurs between coven and that of the Cullens. This is the point, I believe, that existing Twilight fans would already have encountered Bree, and so her story will undoubtedly make more sense to them.
If, on the other hand, you're new to the series (like me), you'll probably be left with something of a "Huh?" and a feeling of dissatisfaction. In fact, for those not initiated to Twilight, the novella leaves a lot left unexplained, like why vampires like to set fire to each other and how it is they can tear each others' limbs off in fights, and still survive.
Although my interest has been piqued by the cult phenomenon that Twilight has become, I can't say that I am any more inspired to read the books. Those I know who have read them seem very much divided into two camps: those who swear to the chemistry that apparently leaps off the pages, and those who can't understand why the books have ventured beyond the realm of adolescents. I'm inclined to think that I would be in the second camp, especially since Bree's (second) life story did not strike me as particularly compelling.
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
(Read free online until 7 July 2010)